Park City Board of Education passes tax increase amid concerns about spending
More money will soon be coming out of the pockets of residents in the Park City School District boundaries.
The Park City Board of Education unanimously voted during a Truth-in-Taxation meeting on Tuesday night to increase the local property tax rate by 16.8 percent, despite some concerns from constituents about the increasing expenditures of the district. The increase is expected to generate about $5.6 million annually, said Todd Hauber, business administrator for the district.
According to a public notice from the district, a primary homeowner will pay an additional $188.65 on a residence with a market value of $893,079, the average price of a primary home in the district boundaries. The owner of a vacation home or business with the same value will pay an additional $343.
The increased revenue from the district’s tax increase will cover the $7,000 boost in teacher salaries and benefits the Board approved in May of 2017, said Andrew Caplan, president of the Board. The Board also recently raised the salary of the superintendent position from $170,000 to $235,000.
Caplan previously stated that the funds will also pay for the salaries and benefits of four new assistant principals at the secondary schools and four interventionists at the elementary schools. The district announced last month that it plans to hire a deputy superintendent as well.
Community member Jim Tedford said during the meeting that it was “hard to justify” adding the positions when the student population has increased minimally in the last few years. According to data from the district’s budget overview, enrollment in the district has increased from 4,788 in 2014 to a projected 4,861 this upcoming school year.
Steve Joyce, a member of the Park City Council, said during the meeting that in the last five years, the hiring of full-time positions has outpaced student growth.
“You, the school board in general, have hired a lot of people in our area that has almost no growth at all for students,” he said. “At some point that kind of has to quit, and I hope that’s soon.”
Andrew Caplan, president of the Board, responded by saying the population has grown, and so has the expectations for the district. He said that teachers are asked to take on more than what was expected of them in the past, including promoting mental health and social equity in the schools.
He said many community members frequently ask for more services in the schools, especially in special education and counseling. He acknowledged that the district has heavily invested in mental health, and he said the decision to use tax dollars to fund programs and new positions was not taken lightly.
“We want to fulfill the wishes of our constituents but, at the same time, we don’t want to have taxes get out of control,” he said after the meeting. “That is the balance we are trying to find, and I think we found that this year.”
Other individuals, such as Mark Parker, an English teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High, came to the meeting as representatives of the Park City Education Association to say it supports the tax increase and is happy to see the direction the district is going, particularly with regards to compensation of teachers.
Caplan said after the meeting that the Board appreciated the feedback, and it recognizes people’s concerns. Many have indicated that the Board should tighten its purse strings, particularly if it plans on asking for more funding down the road for master planning projects, potentially in the form of a large bond. But Caplan said the Board will continue to listen to the wants and needs of the community and determine next steps based on the feedback.
The arsenic-and-lead-containing soil has been a contentious issue for the district, which piled it onto the junior high campus in actions that were later discovered to be in violation of a covenant with the Environmental Protection Agency.
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